Social Media Disrupts Girls' Mental Health.

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Social media itself doesn’t cause harm, but it can disrupt healthy habits that boost mental health, especially in girls, a new study found.

The research,led by Imperial College London and University College London, published onTuesday in the journal The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health, involved interviews with almost 10,000 children between the ages of 13 and 16 in England. The researchers found that social media may harm girls' mental health by increasing their exposure to bullying and reducing their sleep and physical exercise.
Boys weren't as affected by those factors, suggesting there were “other mechanisms” by which heavy social media use affected their mental health, though the researchers couldn’t yet pinpoint what they were.

"Our results suggest that social media itself doesn't cause harm, but that frequent use may disrupt activities that have a positive impact on mental health such as sleeping and exercising, while increasing exposure of young people to harmful content, particularly the negative experience of cyber-bullying," study co-author Professor Russell Viner of the UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health said in a statement.

Dr Dasha Nicholls, from the Department of Brain Sciences and co-author of the study, said: “The clear sex differences we discovered could simply be attributed to girls accessing social media more frequently than boys, or to the fact that girls had higher levels of anxiety to begin with. Cyberbullying may be more prevalent among girls, or it may be more closely associated with stress in girls than in boys.

“However, as other reports have also found clear sex differences, the results of our study make it all the more important to undertake further detailed studies of the mechanisms of social media effects by gender.”

With this study, the problem is put in a better context. It's not necessarily social media that's causing these issues, it's more likely the content that young people are exposed to and its hindrance of healthy sleep and exercise.
It's an important distinction, says Ann DeSmet, a professor at Ghent University in Belgium who was not involved in the research.

"If the displacement of healthy lifestyles and cyberbullying can be attenuated, the positive effects of social media use, such as encouraging social interactions, can be more endorsed," she said in a statement.

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